Dad upset that kids are excluded from family gatherings
DEAR AMY: I am the father of two wonderful children. My son is now 28 and in a relationship with a man who makes him very happy. My daughter is 26 and in a relationship with a guy of a different race who also makes her very happy. Their mother and I raised each of our children to love and not to worry about the opinions of others, but to strive to be happy. Here lies my issue: My home is in Mississippi and I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. Both of their relationships have made it hard on their mother and me to attend family get-togethers, because our families have made it clear that our kids’ significant others are not welcome at family gatherings. We are of the opinion that if our kids are not welcome then we will un-invite ourselves, as well. We have always instilled in our children that love is their No. 1 priority and that love may be hard at times. However, I never dreamed that this hardness would come from family members. Because of this bigotry, my children do not want to attend family dinners and holidays without their loves, and have decided to live elsewhere. My wife and I love our families very much, but love our children more. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and so are we. How do I approach family members and talk about this subject? I do not want to put anyone in an awkward situation, especially my children or their significant others. I want to know the truth behind this exclusion. Should we attend these family gatherings without our children, or should we have our own celebrations?
Holding onto Tradition
DEAR HOLDING: I suggest that, rather than running away from the “awkwardness,” you should more or less embrace it. You and your children are not the cause of this awkwardness, and so you can — in a straightforward way — simply ask your extended family members to describe their reasoning.
It might look like this: There is a large family gathering approaching. You and your wife are notified. You respond, “Great! I’ll let James and John know, as well as Cathleen and Luke.” If your family member has the gall to respond that these partners are going to be excluded, you can simply ask, “Why is that?”
They will be forced to explain their reasoning, during which time you should remain very quiet until it sputters to a stop.
If they expose their bigotry, you can say, “Well, obviously — if our children and their partners are excluded, then we will have to also stay home. I hope that in time you will open your mind and be more hospitable.”
You can hope that your children’s partners have families that are more inclusive than yours is, and that these families will choose to enfold you within their clans.
DEAR AMY: Recently, I asked my 36-year-old son to send a Mother’s Day text to my wife, his stepmother. He refused, saying it made him uncomfortable, and he did not know what to say to her. After my divorce, his stepmother helped me to raise him (by joint custody) from the age of 5 to 18. She has always treated my son as her own. There have been no blow-ups between them. I am at a loss as to how to react to my son’s poor attitude and seeming lack of character. I told him I can’t tell him what to feel, or do, but that I was disappointed. We left it at that. Should I let this matter drop, or pursue it with him?
DEAR UPSET: Mother’s Day can be a tough and confusing day for stepmothers — and stepchildren. You might explain to your son that being nice to his stepmother on Mother’s Day (or any other day) takes nothing away from his relationship with his mother. Tell him it is easy to be generous and make someone else happy, and he will be happier if he tries. And then, yes, you should drop it.
DEAR AMY: “K” asked for suggestions on how to heal after her husband left her for her friend. I went through something similar, and I eventually found some solace in doing new things, in different places, with people around who didn’t know me and my unpleasant backstory. It gave me a lens through which to see, understand, and direct the new person I was evolving into after a sudden and massive life change.
DEAR BEEN THERE: Wise advice. Thank you.